Who is Miguel Díaz-Canel ?, the first president of post-Castro Cuba

Who is Miguel Díaz-Canel ?, the first president of post-Castro CubaHAVANA, 19 apr. (EFE) Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel, number two of the Cuban government since 2013, became this Thursday the new president of Cuba, where for the first time in six decades the main president of the country does not have the surname Castro.

Diaz-Canel, who turns 58 tomorrow, picked up the baton handed down by Raul Castro, who after twelve years in office leaves the country’s Presidency in compliance with the limitation of mandates for senior officials of the regime that he declared in 2013 .

Born in Villa Clara, on April 20, 1960 – a year after the triumph of the Revolution led by Fidel Castro – the new Cuban leader is a politician forged from the bases of the Communist Party (PCC) that has progressively and discreetly ascended in the structures of power to become the number two of the regime.

This electronic engineer, graduated in 1982, joined the Armed Forces of
Cuba until 1985 and since April of that year he worked as a professor at the Central University of Las Villas: it was in that center where two years later and without abandoning teaching he began his political career in the Union of Young Communists (UJC), quarry of the PCC.

His internationalist experience dates back to that time when he led (between 1987 and 1989 and as a specialist in radio of the Cuban Armed Forces) a contingent that traveled to Nicaragua to help the Sandinista government, then in war against the supporters of former dictator Anastasio Somoza supported by U.S.

Upon his return, he continued his progression in the ranks of the UJC, where he became a member of his National Bureau, responsible for the ideological area and second secretary of the organization, a position he assumed in 1993 after the extensive remodeling that the organization experienced when Roberto Robaina, until then leader of the communist youth branch, was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In parallel, Díaz-Canel began his career in the Communist Party: in 1991 he joined the Central Committee of the Party, in 1993 he assumed the leadership of the organization in Villa Clara where he was elevated to provincial secretary between 1994 and 2003.

The year 2003 was an important year in the career of Diaz-Canel: he joined the party’s all-powerful Political Bureau (since he renewed at the PCC congresses in 2011 and 2016); He was elected deputy of the National Assembly for the constituency of Placetas (Villa Clara) and that same year he was transferred to the political leadership of Holguín, where he was provincial secretary until 2009.

His jump to the Government takes place in 2009, when he was appointed by Raúl Castro as Minister of Higher Education: from that position he was commissioned to start up the superior school for State and Government leaders, inaugurated in October 2011, for the formation of the generational change as approved by the VI Congress of the PCC (2011).

Three years later, on March 22, 2012, Raúl Castro took him one step further by naming him vice president of the Council of Ministers, replacing the veteran José Ramón Fernández, better known as “El Gallego Fernández”.

But the decisive rise of Díaz-Canel came after the elections of February 2013, when he was appointed first vice president of the Council of State with equal rank in the Council of Ministers replacing the “historic” José Ramón Machado Ventura in the post: it was consolidated as number two of the raulista government and probable successor of the Castro minor.

From that moment, the hitherto almost unknown Díaz-Canel began to gain public visibility within the island and also abroad as he has represented Cuba on numerous trips.

Among them, the inauguration in 2013 of the Ecuadorian president, Rafael Correa (2003); the tour he did that year in Laos, Vietnam and China, where he met with the president, Xi Jinping; or his trip to Caracas for the anniversary of the death of Hugo Chávez (2015).

He also went as the maximum representative of Cuba to the EU-Celac summit (June 2015), several anniversaries of the Sandinista Revolution and the inauguration of the Nicaraguan Daniel Ortega, in January 2017. That same year he toured Belarus. Russia and Japan, where he met with presidents Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chancellor Kishida, in which he discussed cooperation, energy and industrial projects.

In May 2017 he attended the investiture of Ecuadorian Lenin Moreno, and then traveled to Bolivia to meet with the president, Evo Morales, and visit La Higuera, where they executed “Che”, and Vallegrande, where he was buried until 1997 .

In addition, he has participated in the receptions to the dignitaries who have visited the island, among them that of Pope Francisco, in September 2015, or that of President Barack Obama, in March 2016. Díaz-Canel is married in second marriages with Lis Cuesta Peraza, university professor.

In his first marriage, with Martha, he had two children. The new Cuban president has Spanish ancestry: his great-grandfather, originally from Castropol (Asturias, Spain), emigrated to Cuba in the mid-nineteenth century and managed a furniture factory in Havana.